First-time offenders will face $270 fine if caught using marijuana in a public place, but criminal charges will only be brought if person re-offends four times.
The cabinet approved on Sunday the decriminalized use of marijuana in Israel. According to the proposal formulated by the Public Security and Justice ministries, any first-time offender caught using marijuana in public would receive a fine rather than face criminal action.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who led the reform, said that "the government's approval is an important step on the way to implement the new policy, which will emphasize public information and treatment instead of criminal enforcement.
To implement the policy, an inter-ministerial team will be set up to propose amendments, regulations and the required changes to carry out the new policy.
MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz), the chairwoman of the Knesset Special Committee on Drug and Alcohol Abuse, said that "this is an important step, but not the end of the road. It sends a message that a million of Israelis who consume marijuana aren’t criminals. We will carry on following the details in the committee and ensure that the change is implemented."
Erdan is set to attend a special committee discussion on the decriminalization reform on Monday.
The proposal was based on the conclusions of a committee headed by Public Security Ministry Director General Rotem Peleg, with the recommendations accepted by Erdan.
The panel recommended shifting focus from criminal prosecution of users to administrative fines and educational campaigns. Criminal prosecution, Minister Erdan said in January, should only be used as a last resort.
The panel recommended switching the focus on marijuana usage from the criminal level to the educational one, and expanding responses to marijuana use beyond opening criminal files and prosecuting users.
According to the new policy, first-time offenders that are caught using marijuana in a public place will incur a fine of 1,000 shekels ($271) but the offender will not face criminal charges. The fine will be doubled on the second offense. The third offense will lead to probation, with the record of the offense only being expunged after a brief period. Only on the fourth offense will criminal charges be pressed.
The money from the fines will go to financing antidrug education and treatment.
According to the new policy, if a minor is caught using marijuana he would be criminally investigated only if he refuses to take part in a treatment program, Erdan said.
Erdan had said that Israel's marijuana arrest policy was reexamined due to legalization efforts around the world.
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